Kent Rail

Class 489

GLV: Gatwick Luggage Van


Very much a breed of former Central Division lines, this class’ comparatively recent deployment in the Garden of England justifies its inclusion on the website. Although heavily modified since first seeing the light of day, these vehicles essentially derive from a design dating back to 1957, when a then new generation of BR electric multiple units were introduced on South Eastern Division lines. Having undergone two transformations through ''recycling'', this class, in light of its origins, sits amongst the oldest to still be regularly operating on Kentish lines, perhaps beaten only by the Class 08 diesel shunter.

Regular semi-fast services between London Victoria and Gatwick Airport can be traced back to May 1958, but the first noticeable attempt at providing a dedicated named train between the two locations, to cater for steadily increasing air traffic, occurred in 1978. Trials were undertaken using 4 VEP No. 7755 to ascertain if basic modifications made to typical SR electric stock would be suitable for conveying airline passengers. The alterations made to this unit were little more than replacing some seating areas with luggage racks; subsequently, another twelve 4 VEPs received the same treatment. All of the modified units were designated '’4 VEG’' and received the branding ‘’Rapid City Link Gatwick – London’’. Despite the then new name, the units retained the usual BR Blue and Grey colour scheme, but the British Rail ‘’Arrows of Indecision’’ logo was accompanied by that of an aircraft symbol. In the meantime the prototype, No. 7755, was reverted to its original state.

The ‘’Rapid City Link Gatwick – London’’ service was semi-fast on introduction, its only intermediate stop being East Croydon. The 4 VEG units would usually be attached to a service from the Arun Valley Line at Gatwick, and thence both services would continue onto Victoria. Whilst the novelty of re-using existing stock was a cost-effective solution, airline passengers expected more comfort and luxury than that afforded by a standard commuter electric unit. To replace the 4 VEG pool, British Rail required purpose-built and comfortable stock to work the route, but with finance not available for a brand new train fleet, the option of re-using existing vehicles was again pursued.

From 4th October 1982, InterCity 125 High Speed Train sets started being introduced on Midland Region services, replacing traditional locomotive-hauled trains. This led to a series of relatively young BR Mk 2f air-conditioned passenger carriages becoming surplus to requirements, and it was these vehicles which became candidates for cascading down to the SR to form part of a new ‘’Gatwick Express’’. Seventy-four carriages were selected for conversion, work of which was undertaken at Derby Litchurch Lane. Vehicles were coupled together semi-permanently in sets of two and three, being designated Classes 488/2 and 488/3 respectively; these would then be joined together to form longer train lengths. Electric pneumatic braking was installed, and vehicles were converted for multiple operation with other semi-permanently coupled sets. Class 488/2 sets consisted of First Open and Tourist Second Open (TSO) coaches, whilst the Class 488/3 sets comprised three Second Class TSO vehicles.

The unique Class 73 Electro-Diesel was selected as motive power for the proposed re-vamped airport service, although only the type's electrical capability would be used. A small number of these locomotives had been withdrawn and put into store in the early 1980s, some of which were subsequently employed on the Gatwick Express.




GLV 419103: 1984

Resplendent in InterCity Executive colours with yellow wraparound cab ends, No. 9103 is seen on the southern approaches to Clapham Junction, Victoria-bound. The first vehicle behind the GLV is a First Open BR Mk 2f of Class 488/2. © David Glasspool Collection

August 1986

 9110 Clapham Junction: August 1986

Wearing a plain head code, No. 9110 is seen passing Clapham Junction on the last leg of its journey to Victoria. © David Glasspool Collection

March 1987


9107 at Norwood Junction: March 1987

The Gatwick Express' usual route was via Selhurst, but in the above view we see GLV No. 9107 leading the service through Norwood Junction, having run via Crystal Palace. This was the result of engineering works. © David Glasspool Collection


Next: The History Continues >>


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